Jurors late Monday convicted a lawyer who fatally shot a maintenance man in the back as police were trying to evict him from his South Beach condo in November 2010.
Lawyer Joseph Richer’s defense had insisted that he was acting in self-defense when he fired a “warning shot” at the two workers and a Miami-Dade cop who tried to enter his condo. The second and fatal round was an “unintentional” shot discharged only when he was himself wounded by a police bullet, the defense claimed.
But prosecutors said Richer fired his .357-caliber pistol in a violent attempt to stave off an eviction he knew was months in the works.
“He was not going to let that happen,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Tammy Forrest told jurors during Monday’s closing arguments. “He was determined he wasn’t going. He was angry.”
After four hours of deliberations on Monday, jurors agreed with the state, convicting Richer of second-degree murder for the slaying of maintenance worker Carlos Alberto Gomez.
Richer, 48, will be sentenced in the coming weeks.
The ex-lawyer had been locked in a legal dispute with his father, Charles, over the unit at the beachfront Royal Atlantic Condominium, 465 Ocean Dr. The younger Richer, an attorney in Wyoming and Cornell University graduate, had lived there for seven years without making any payments.
Prosecutors said Richer knew full well he was to be evicted that week — condo employees testified they told him, and he had been served with the proper legal paperwork. Richer had even switched his condo’s unit number in an attempt to fool police looking to evict him, according to the state.
On that morning, Miami-Dade Officer George Serradet, in full uniform and with a court order to evict Richer, loudly knocked on the door and announced he was with the police, according to prosecutors. With him: a locksmith and Gomez.
When no one answered, the locksmith took 15 to 20 minutes to open the door. When the door swung open, Richer was standing there with his pistol aimed directly at Serradet, prosecutors said.
“That gun was two to three feet from his face,” prosecutor Maryam Adeyola told jurors on Monday.
The defense, however, said Serradet broke police rules by showing up alone and never actually announcing he was police. And Richer, who took the stand during the week-long trial, insisted that he had been out drinking the night before and was slumbering right up until the men walked into the apartment.
“Mr. Richer opened his eyes to see an armed man; he had no idea it was a law enforcement officer,” Rosengarten said, adding: “Only an idiot would try and stop an eviction by shooting at a police officer.”
He opened fire, missing the officer. That was the warning shot, the defense countered. In the ensuing melee, Serradet shot Richer twice, while one of Richer’s bullets hit Gomez as he ran away.